A Death in Sarajevo (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #3.5), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Eight stars

With three successful novels in the series, Ausma Zehanat Khan takes her Canadian police procedural on a slightly different path with this short story. As the piece opens, some of the fallout from past cases has made its way up to the Parliament of Canada, with an inquiry into the actions undertaken by Inspector Esa Khattak. In what appears to be an attempted whitewashing by the committee chair, Khattak is forced to deflect the blame and ensure it is clear that the Ministry of Justice authorised his actions. Supported by his partner, Rachel Getty, Khattak seeks not to be the sacrificial lamb in an attempt to erase Community Policing from its perch within the larger police family. After a stunning revelation, Khattak is free to leave and sets his sights on Sarajevo, where a long-ago friend seeks his help. Amira Sarac was said to have died during the war in Bosnia, but there are some loose ends that lead some to believe that she may have worked with the Bluebird Brigade—comprised of female soldiers—for longer than first thought. Peeling back what little is known about Sarac’s final mission, Khattak is able to locate not only her final resting place, but also some interesting tidbits about her past. While nothing will bring Amira Sarac back to those who love her, there’s a chance that her memory will live on for many years. An interesting short story that will surely be of interest to those who have followed the series to date, though there are few major revelations to be found here. Recommended to those who enjoy the Khattak-Getty novels, as well as the reader who likes a quick read to fill a gap.

While Khan has used her three previous novels to tackle major issues with Canada’s acceptance of the Muslim community, this piece is a break from that intensity. Khan offers up the first portion to tie off some threads that have been dangling for a while, including how Khattak will do when faced with some of the revelations related to his actions. While that alone could have made for a great short story, adding the Sarajevo subplot not only lengthened the piece, but gave it some heartfelt depth. Khattak remains his usual self, determined to tell the truth and not allow anyone to derail what he knows to be true. His passion for others shines through, even when some would see him vilified for his actions. Rachel Getty takes a backseat, but it is apparent that her passion to see Khattak receive the accolades he deserves surely strengthens the relationship she has with her superior. The reader is also permitted another small glimpse into her personal life, when her father makes an appearance at the hearings. The story flew by and proved to be as entertaining as it was compact. While I would recommend reading the series from the beginning, this one could be tried as a standalone to get a handle on the writing, characters, and the larger themes that Khan wishes to put forward in her books. I am eager to get back to the novels, to see what else Khattak and Getty come across as they try to help those in need within Canada’s minority community.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for another great piece. I needed this short story to help me reset my mind, but am ready to dive right in to see what else you have in store for series fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons